Baseball fans appreciate good, attractive uniforms that help set their favorite teams apart from others. An appreciation for the attire of the game came early to me.
I am hopelessly and happily addicted to baseball, an affliction visited on me as a child by virtue of the close proximity of Kansas City’s old Municipal Stadium to Lawrence, Kansas, where I spent a portion of my early childhood. Municipal Stadium was a superb baseball venue, featuring the beautiful handiwork of George Toma, but also a place where the Kansas City Athletics toiled in futility. Realists attended A’s games hoping for victory but anticipating defeat.
Charlie Finley was the A’s unforgettable owner whose mercurial, controversial and eccentric ways are fascinating topics for another day; Finley is relevant here because he was primarily responsible for introducing colorful uniforms to baseball.
Finley decked his hapless team out in Kelly Green and Gold on the road, and for at least one game each homestand; the sleeveless gold jerseys featuring the famous “A” were worn over green-sleeved old-style baseball undershirts. The usual home uniform was similar, but with Wedding Gown White jerseys (the picture accompanying this story depicts the 1965 A’s home uniform worn on a “throwback” day by the Oakland A’s in 2015). I can still hear A’s radio announcer Monte Moore describing the uniform colors of the day as each broadcast began.
So popular were the colorful road uniforms that some fans scheduled their trips to the old ballpark to include the occasional home games when the A’s wore the green and gold.
In those days, replica major league uniforms were hard to find. But that didn’t stop me. With an indelible marker, I affixed a makeshift “A” and the number 7 (the number of Rocky Colavito, my favorite player during his one year with the A’s) to a sleeveless yellow summer shirt, then donned this “jersey” over a baseball undershirt with real Kelly Green sleeves.
This homemade uniform served me well during the hours I spent learning how to throw and catch by fielding tennis balls thrown against the side of our garage, playing catch with my dad, and hosting endless neighborhood pickup games in our backyard. It made me an “A” if only in my imagination.
The “Green and Gold” became the A’s trademark (along with a genuine Missouri Mule mascot Finley named after himself) and I missed the unis (and of course the team) when Finley took the A’s away to Oakland, where the Green and Gold survive today.
The welcome announcement that the Royals were coming to town gave me hope that the new team would adopt the former club’s colors, but in my youth, it didn’t occur to me that such a thing was a commercial impossibility.
Instead, the new team opted for simplicity–in keeping with baseball tradition, the home uniforms were white, the road unis initially gray, with jerseys that understatedly bore “Royals” at home and “Kansas City” on the road. I was at first disappointed, but time won me over. The Royals got the uniform right…at least most of the time.